With the NBA season about a month old, the Golden State Warriors started hot and remain the league’s top team. The reigning champions are the only undefeated franchise, and have been tantalizing to the point that pundits have begun murmuring about the potential of a 72-win season — something that has happened once in league history.
“We’re off to a better start than we were last year, and I think we have talked about (how) we’re a better team, so a lot goes into that,” Golden State point guard and reigning league MVP Steph Curry said. “That would be nice to hit (72 wins) and something that we would be very proud of, obviously. We want to be at the best we can be, and if that’s 72, 73 wins, then so be it.”
Behind a plus-16.3 point differential through the first 11 games of the season, the Warriors have raced out to a three-game lead in the Western Conference by bludgeoning opponents in first quarters.
Under interim Coach Luke Walton, Golden State is a league-best plus-5.2 in first quarters this season; last season they ranked fifth, with a point differential of plus-2.4. In all but two games this season the Warriors have led at the end of the first quarter; one of the two instances came against Memphis, a team they ended up beating by 50 points.
Where do those first-quarter leads come from? In simplest terms, the Warriors freely hoist shots from beyond the arc.
The Warriors, who led the league last season in three-point percentage and lead the league again this season, are the most deadly and adroit team from beyond the arc. Golden State nets 12.2 three-point field goals per game this season, and attempt 8.7 in the first 12 minutes — an average of nearly two more three-point pointers than any other team in the league.
What’s makes the shots more efficient is that a majority of Golden State’s first-quarter field goals (69.7 percent) are assisted. Better than 30 percent of the team’s overall field goal attempts this season have come from beyond the arc, and a mind-bending 36.8 percent of the team’s first-quarter shots come from three-point range.
Although it’s clear that the Warriors are reliant on shooting from beyond the three-point line to produce points night in and night out, Golden State three-pointers in the first quarter supply the highest percentage of team points when compared to the other three quarters.
For teams hoping to remain competitive against Stephen Curry and Co., covering the perimeter in the first 12 minutes could go a long way.
Josh Planos has been published at the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, the Guardian, the Pacific Standard and VICE, among other publications. He has been heard on CBS Sports Radio, Fox Sports Radio and ESPN Radio. Planos is currently a Digital Editor at KETV NewsWatch 7 and a freelance writer.